Secularist becomes Jerusalem's Mayor

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Secularist becomes Jerusalem's Mayor

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Jerusalem has chosen Israeli businessman and secular politician Nir Barkat as its new mayor.

Seen as a battle between the city’s secular and religious factions, Barkat won the election with 52 percent of the vote, defeating ultra-orthodox candidate Meir Porush.

In a divisive campaign between the city’s Jewish communities, Barkat promised to be mayor for “all of Jerusalem’s residents”, including the city’s large Palestinian population.

But, Barkat, who opposes a division of Jerusalem as part of any peace agreement, says he also wants to build in the Arab-dominated east of the city.

Barkat’s main rival Rabbi Meir Porush took 43 percent of the vote. His defeat ends 5 years of ultra-orthodox mayoral rule over the city.

While many Palestinian’s boycotted the election, for some Israelis Barkat’s victory represents a clear sea change.

‘‘It’s a revolution I think. It’s a very, very great day for us,’‘ said this Israeli woman.

‘‘He definitely comes with a lot of energy to change things in this city. If he will get cooperation from everybody he might succeed. But it’s going to be very, very hard,’‘ said this man.

The status of Jerusalem remains key to future peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.